Thursday, July 05, 2012

Art Collection: Photograph Of "Tad" Dorgan, Ca. 1920

(Click for bigger.)

I've already written about Thomas A. "Tad" Dorgan several times here on PSP, but I've accumulated more material, so let's have a "Tadstravaganza" for the next week or so, OK?

Above is a typical vintage 6.5" x 8.25" promotional head shot of the cartoonist, date and photographer unknown, but most likely from the early 1920s when he was in his early 40s. I love this portrait because his gaze is so intense (his eyes must have been beautiful), and his presence is so commanding, but otherwise he looks like he's about to dry up and blow away.

And there's a good reason for this. Poor Tad had a physically rough life despite his great success. He lost most of his right hand in a gruesome accident at an early age. Later, in the first couple of decades of the 20th century, he worked so hard and was so prolific, turning out multiple daily drawings as well as covering every important boxing match in New York City and beyond, that he literally pushed his body past its ability to keep up An apparently congenital heart defect caught up with him in 1920 and 1921, when a series of medical emergencies caused his physician to order him to retire from the busy city life he adored and chronicled. This contemporary account, written in September of 1925 by O. O. McIntyre for his famous New York Day by Day syndicated column, neatly summarizes how Dorgan spent his final years:

Until recently only a few intimate friends at Great Neck, L. I., knew T. A. Dorgan, known the globe over as "Tad" the cartoonist had been confined to his home for four dreary years with a heart ailment. But Tad is used to handicaps and has carried on. When he was a youngster he lost all of his right hand but the thumb and index finger, he became one of the world's greatest cartoonists with his left. Tad is what we call a "man's man." He loved the gang from which he has long been cut off by doctor's order, but his humor is as effervescent as ever. Recently I dropped him a line not knowing of his illness, and his reply was characteristic: "I have one of those nickel-a-quart hearts and am shut off from merry mucilage and the gang. I can play the local movies and ball games but duck New York."

So he remained in Great Neck for the last eight years of his life, only occasionally leaving his house. He was no less prolific, though, and continued to churn out thousands of drawings for King Features during this period.

More to come!


Comrade Physioprof said...

Sounds like he was a very interesting dude. I wonder if maybe his gaze looks so intense because they needed a long exposure for the photo, and the photographer told him to be sure not to blink?

Peteykins said...

I doubt a long exposure was necessary in 1920. I've always gotten the impression that Tad was just a really intense guy.

Anonymous said...

If you look closely, his three-piece suit has a fine window-pane check and an open buttonhole on the lapel...custom made?